1.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Propping up Winston shouldn’t come at the expense of tearing down Marcus Mariota, but the former is certainly more pro-ready than the latter. Winston can step right into a pro offense and turn up the heat on opposing NFC South defenses, especially with the weapons the Buccaneers posses on the outside. While some compare Winston to the college prospective of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, he’s more of a Brett Favre type who slings the ball all over the field – sometimes to opposing defenses. Still, despite the interceptions – and off-field transgressions — Winston is still the best option to go No. 1 overall.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
He may be the best all-around player in the draft, as scouts see him as the next Richard Seymour, able to play up and down the defensive line. Williams is the ultimate disrupter against the pass and has enough power and technique to be a really good run-stopper. Yes, it’ll be difficult for the Titans to pass on Mariota, but head coach Ken Whisenhunt must give second-year passer Zach Mettenberger more time to develop and see what he has in the former LSU star.
3.Jacksonville Jaguars: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Jaguars’ offensive line was putrid last season, but there really isn’t a prospect worthy of the No. 3 pick. Ironically enough, there’s offensive talent on the perimeter and quarterback Blake Bortles seems like a keeper, so for the Jaguars, if they can’t get a stud offensive lineman with the pick, the next logical choice would be to nab a game-changing defensive player. Luckily for them, this draft is crawling with pass rushers, and Beasley has all the makings of being the best. His combine didn’t disappoint, as he proved to be the most explosive pure pass rusher in this class. Gus Bradley’s hybrid 4-3 defense (four lineman and three linebackers) is primed to slot in a guy like Beasley, as the Jags need more ammo to contend with Luck and Co.
4. Oakland Raiders: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
If Al Davis was still with us, he’d run to the table and hand in this card. White and Amari Cooper are the top wide receiver prospects this year. And while the latter may be more polished as a route runner and has shown he could perform on the highest level while at Alabama, the former has all the tools to scare any defense and blow the roof off any secondary. White is bigger, stronger, and faster than Cooper – and that’s been the Raider way since the team’s inception.
5.Washington Redskins: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo’s contract is up, so if he’s not re-signed, Washington will need to fill that void. It’s heads-or-tails on deciding who the best pass rusher in the draft is, but since Beasley is slotted for Jacksonville, that means that Gregory is a nice consolation prize. He’s lighter than Beasley, but he actually plays the run better. And with his long arms and range, Gregory could be the next Aldon Smith, able to use his length and athleticism to gain the proper leverage against the run.
6. TRADE Philadelphia Eagles, by way of the New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Now that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly seems keen on bringing in his types of guys that best fit his system, this seems like a no-brainer. Sure, it’ll be a hefty price to trade up from No. 20, but Kelly has shown he’s not afraid of going against the grain – whether it’s getting rid of unhealthy snacks at the practice facility, changing the customary practice schedule, requesting players to take daily naps, or running his college spread offense. If any other team drafts Mariota, he’d need more seasoning to run a pro-style offense. But if Kelly nabs him, Mariota is a plug-and-play quarterback because he is well-versed in Kelly’s uptempo spread attack.
7.Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Bears have holes all over, but none more pressing than the back seven on defense. This spot may be taken too high for a safety, but Collins is a playmaker from an elite football factory like Alabama, and would fill an immediate need. Collins is athletic, instinctive, and a strong tackler. And his versatility and pedigree is what sets him apart from the other defensive backs in this draft class
8.Atlanta Falcons: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
Like the Bears, the Falcons need help with its front-seven. The Falcons have all the tools on offense, but have been lacking severely on the defensive end for a number of years, and it’s time to address that – especially with new head coach Dan Quinn bringing his own brand of defense to the ATL after years overseeing the Seattle Seahawks defense. Fowler is a good start, as he can be a hybrid outside pass-rushing linebacker too go along with his defensive end duties.
9.New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
This makes the most sense, although adding someone like Cooper to team with a recovered Victor Cruz and the sensational Odell Beckham Jr., might be too much to pass up for general manager Jerry Reese. But with Flowers, he also provides an immediate lift to a sagging unit, as he’s arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft. Justin Pugh has been solid at right tackle, but if his bookend, Will Beatty, continues to struggle, Big Blue will gladly turn to the Miami product.
10. St. Louis Rams: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
There’s no franchise quarterback to be had at this slot, so St. Louis goes the safe route and stockpiles offensive line help. Clemmings is every bit the prospect as Flowers, with the caveat that he can also play guard as well.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Teddy Bridgewater gets another weapon to go along with the likely return of franchise running back Adrian Peterson. Cooper only slides this far because of the unpredictable Raiders. But he’s seen as the best and most polished receiver in the draft by many, and didn’t do anything to dispel that notion at the combine.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The Browns certainly need a receiver, as Josh Gordon is exiled for a year – and maybe done with the Browns altogether. New starting quarterback Josh McCown will need parts around him to excel after flaming out in Tampa last season. Parker is right there with White and Cooper as far as talent, so he’d instantly be the best wideout on the Browns’ unproven receiving corps.
13. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
He doesn’t lack for talent or confidence, willing to tell anyone within earshot that he’s the best cornerback in the draft. Peters will instantly boost a sagging Saints secondary, as he is well equipped to deal with the talented wideouts in the NFC South.
14. Miami Dolphins: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The very popular Jared Odrick will likely leave South Beach, so that means the Dolphins will need to improve its front-seven. Shelton is a terrific talent who can play the run and disrupt the pocket. It’d also be a rarity to see Huskies selected in back-to-back spots.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Niners desperately need wideout help, but there’s nobody on anyone’s draft board that has this type of value. Since star defensive end Justin Smith keeps waffling about whether to return for another season, the 49ers need to cover themselves for the likelihood of his retirement. Dupree would be a nice fall-back plan, as he can play both defensive end or rush linebacker for new head coach Jim Tomsula’s aggressive attack.
16. Houston Texans: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The pass rush will be solid, even if last year’s No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney plays or not – mainly because there’s a guy named J.J. Watt still on the roster. But Watt can’t do it alone, and even as great as he is, he can’t be relied upon to cover wideouts, too. So, by adding Williams, the Texans will have a nice asset on the perimeter to lock down receivers and give Watt and Co. time to get to the passer.
17. San Diego Chargers: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Philip Rivers is as tough as they come, but even he needs to be protected. The Chargers will look to boost that, as they nab the Stanford product. The Cardinal are a physical outfit and have a pro-ready system, so Peat should transition well to the next level.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma, Jr.
It’s unfathomable that a team coached by Andy Reid could go an entire campaign without registering a receiving touchdown by a wideout, but that’s what the Chiefs did last season. But thankfully for Alex Smith, Green-Beckham falls in Kansas City’s lap and the drought will end likely by opening weekend.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo): Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Browns have two first-round picks for the second-consecutive year. So far, it seems like they missed on last season’s second first-rounder (Johnny Manziel), so they need to hit on this one, and Brown could be that gem. They already found a wideout with their first pick, so they’ll try and shore up the defensive line with arguably the best defensive tackle available.
20. New York Jets: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Jets arrive at No. 20 following the trade with the Eagles. They have a new regime, but the same quarterback, and with no better option after the Big Two quarterbacks, head coach Todd Bowles will look to add a real player in the secondary. During Bowles’s tenure as the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, his aggressive defense thrived on the blitz, meaning his cornerbacks were routinely on an island. Adding a physical and fast talent like Waynes fits perfectly into Bowles’s scheme.
21. Cincinnati Bengals:OT La’el Collins (LSU)
About the only question pertaining to Collins is whether he can transition to left tackle full-time in the NFL. But outside of those concerns, the former LSU star hits both checkmarks for both immediate and future needs, since he can play immediately as a starting guard in the league as well as cover both tackle positions as a starter or a swing-tackle. It also helps Collins’s cause that Andrew Whitworth’s and Andre Smith’s contracts expire after this year, so the team will have a full season to decide if Collins should move into the starting role of one or the other.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
The Steelers’ secondary is so bad that there were reports that team officials are secretly hoping that future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu would retire. Darby doesn’t play safety, but he would surely give Pittsburgh secondary a boost.
23. Detroit Lions: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
They’ll likely lose All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and running mate Nick Fairley to free agency, so filling the holes in the middle seem logical. This may be a reach to some, but Phillips comes from pro-style program and is a freakish athlete for his size (6-foot-6, 340 pounds).
24. Arizona Cardinals: Shaq Thompson, LB Washington
Thompson is the perfect fit for a Cardinals’ defense that likes to harass the quarterback from all angles and levels of the defense. Thompson, who excelled at linebacker, safety, and even running back for the Huskies, would be the third player from that program in the first round. He’s earned that distinction, though, because he had a knack for creating turnovers, which would certainly be of use in the desert.
25. Carolina Panthers: Cameron Irving, C, Florida State
Not the sexiest pick, but certainly a need, as the Panthers have to do a better job of protecting quarterback Cam Newton. Selecting the best remaining offensive lineman – one who can play every position on the offensive line at a very high level – is an obvious choice. Carolina has had issues with their interior line for the last few seasons, so this is a very solid selection.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio)
This is a very intriguing selection, as Rollins is starting to get noticed by the mainstream media. A former point guard for the school’s basketball team, Rollins is a superb athlete and a natural ball-hawk who could provide the Ravens a boost.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Next man up rings true here, as Dallas sees one running back out and another stud running in to fill his shoes. Gordon ran behind the best offensive line in college football last season, so running behind a Cowboys’ line that is considered the league’s best will suit him just fine.
28. Denver Broncos: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
There are more pressing needs along the offensive line, but with none on the board fit for the No. 28 pick, Denver fills it tight end needs since Julius Thomas is unlikely to return. Williams is the best tight end in the draft, so he could be not only a best player available pick, but need selection.
29. Indianapolis Colts: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Andrew Luck plays like Superman, but he’s not made of steel. The do-everything quarterback took a beating last season, despite posting career numbers. So, tabbing Humphries here makes too much sense. The former Florida Gator is a very good pass protector, so he’ll slide right in for a Colts’ offense that rarely runs the ball anyway.
30. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi
There’s a glaring need at this position for the Packers, so picking McKinney is a best player available/need bonus. Since Green Bay cut both A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, that is a strong indicator of their plans this April. Plus, drafting McKinney would allow them to move Clay Matthews back to his normal position of outside linebacker.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
This is the most obvious best player/need pick of the draft, as Seattle desperately needs help on the outside. They might’ve found a budding star in Chris Matthews with his stellar Super Bowl performance, but they still need more. Coates is a hulking mass of humanity with blazing speed. He’d surely boost the average Seahawks’ receiving corps.
32. New England Patriots: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
The Pats will reportedly release stalwart Vince Wilfork, so this would be a great fall-back plan. Davis is one of the best remaining tackles and playing at Iowa should also boost his chances of contributing right away in the NFL. Davis (6-foot-5, 321 pounds) has been rising up the scouting ranks ever since he was named the Senior Bowl’s Most Outstanding Practice Player. He’s not a great pass rusher (3.5 career sacks), but neither was Wilfork. Nevertheless, like Wilfork, Davis is a physical presence inside and can anchor a run defense with gap control.